I found myself in a situation yesterday that got me thinking about the way we interact verbally with one another. I got a desperate call from a neighbor asking for my help. Her kitten had fallen behind the washer and there was no room for a human to get behind it, nor could she pull the washer out of its ‘closet space’. We had to climb on top of the washer and reach in behind and pull the kitten up by the scruff.
After this was accomplished and the lint was dusted from the kitten, she thanked me profusely for the rescue and also for not saying “That’s almost as bad as…” When I asked her what she meant, she asked me had I never noticed how people always say they’ve had worse things happen to them than you have? This was the first time I’d met someone else who was bothered by this.
I have occasionally noticed this pattern in speech before and while it’s sometimes humorous, more often than not it's annoying. Only after she reminded me, though, did I stop to analyze why we do it.
I can understand when you are telling a person you had an unexpected expense that was tough to deal with and they reply that they can relate, then go on to tell you of their most recent unexpected outlay. That, I think, is their way of saying they have been through what you’re going through. Another phrase is, of course, “Been there!”
But what I’m really talking about is the one-upmanship or ‘I’m better than you are’ meaning behind that phrase "almost as bad."
"Oh yeah, that’s almost as bad as…”
Now, there may be times when indeed, my experience might not have been as bad as one they’ve been through, but even in that case, isn’t it still wrong to begin dialog with someone in that way?